Mar 08

No Brainer Harvey Will Be Opening Day Starter

The Mets like to say they don’t have one ace, but a whole rotation full of aces. It’s the politically correct thing to say, of course. It’s also nonsense because everybody knows it’s a no-brainer Matt Harvey will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City.

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

Jacob deGrom had a better season statistically – traditionally a yardstick in naming an Opening Day starter – and Noah Syndergaard might have a higher upside, but Harvey is the arm the Mets first boast about.

Harvey, today’s starter against the Braves at Disney, last pitched in Game 5 of the World Series when he convinced manager Terry Collins to go out for the ninth inning, and we all know how that worked out for the Mets.

Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year, but most importantly in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery was he made 29 regular-season starts and threw 216 total innings without any hint of re-injury.

Many times in the second year back from surgery the pitcher will come back even stronger and there are reports from Florida Harvey’s slider is back and his fastball has that last-second bite it lacked at times in 2015.

Harvey will make over $4 million this year, more than deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler combined. The Mets will say when they finally make the official announcement money had nothing to do with their decision, but that would be a misnomer.

Harvey makes the most because his age put him first in line. That’s a fact, but it’s also symbolic. You see, the Mets were going to rebuild with their young pitching and Harvey was the first. He was the one they were going to build around.

Then came Wheeler, and deGrom, then Syndergaard and Matz. Come July when Wheeler is back and Bartolo Colon is relegated to the bullpen, will the Mets’ rebuilding plan be whole.

But, symbolically Harvey was the first step, which is why he’ll get the ball in Kansas City. It’s symmetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 05

Understanding Lack Of Urgency In Signing Pitchers

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said there haven’t been any talks with their young rotation for long-term contracts, but added that doesn’t mean there can’t be negotiations later in spring training. But, if it doesn’t happen this spring there shouldn’t be a cause for great concern.

DeGROM: It's just business (GETTY)

DeGROM: It’s just business (GETTY)

I’ve long liked the idea of the Mets signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. My thinking is the price will eventually increase so it makes sense to lock them up early for the sake of cost certainty. It makes sense, but I can also understand why Alderson hasn’t been more aggressive in that area.

It starts with a sense of urgency, and frankly there is none. Matt Harvey won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Jacob deGrom won’t be eligible until 2020, which is four years away, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz until 2021.

“I think that’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind,” Alderson told reporters. “There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity or length of their time with the Mets. I all of these cases, they’re going to be with us for a while. From that standpoint, is there urgency? From our standpoint, is there urgency?”

There’s time to do something and yes the price can increase. Conversely, there’s always the possibility of injuries and underperforming. That’s always the chance you take when you sign players to long-term contracts.

On the flip side, the Mets are taking a chance of alienating these pitchers if they continue to do things as they did with deGrom. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, a team can assign a player his salary, which is what the Mets did when they issued him a $607,000 contract.

The conventional wisdom is the team holds the hammer early in a player’s career, and the athlete puts the screws to the team later on. If a team plays hardball all the time, it could come back to bite them.

For now, deGrom told reporters all is well with the team.

“That’s the business side of the game,” deGrom said. “That’s why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

“As I’ve said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

It’s also the business side when the player takes it to the team in the arbitration and free-agent process.

Feb 27

Wheeler Must Remember He’s Not Harvey

The longest journey begins with a single step and the Mets’ Zack Wheeler took his first today with ten throws off the front of the mound. It was his first time throwing off an incline since he underwent Tommy John surgery, last March 25.

“As small as it was, it’s a big milestone,” Wheeler told reporters. “Even if it was like seven throws off the front of the mound, it’s still feet on the dirt, getting back off the slope a little bit. It might be small, but it’s big for me.”

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

The most important words from that thought are, “for me.”

The target date for Wheeler’s return is July 1, which is roughly 15 months, the same as it was for Matt Harvey. While the Mets’ plan for Wheeler is the duplicate of Harvey’s, Wheeler must remember he’s not Harvey.

What worked for Harvey might not work for Wheeler. Harvey had a longer than normal rehab, but Wheeler’s could be even longer. He has a different body type than Harvey. Although they had the same surgery, perhaps their injuries weren’t identical.

Everybody’s body is different and the recovery process is unique. Fortunately, Wheeler appears to have grasped that concept: “Well, everybody is different in their comebacks. I know Steven Matz had some problems coming back. And Harv and Jacob deGrom, they did pretty well coming back. So it’s a process. It’s different with everybody. Everybody reacts differently to the surgery.”

He says that now, but let’s hope he remembers it in June if his recovery has a setback or two. And, if he’s not back by early July, well, that’s fine, also. The most important thing is Wheeler eventually pitches again without pain.

Whenever that is.

Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.

 

Feb 24

Wright, Collins Talk Playing Time

Mets manager Terry Collins met with David Wright today to begin discussing limiting his playing time during spring training and the season. Not surprisingly, a definitive games number was not reached.

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

It will begin by limiting his exhibition at-bats and time in the batting cage. During the season, Wright could sit in an afternoon game after a night game. However, there was no mention in sitting him in a game before, or after, an off day.

“It went great because he’s David Wright,” Collins told reporters.“It was all about the scheduling. It was all about what needed to take place before he’s in games. And David obviously was on board with it.”

GM Sandy Alderson set a target of 130 games for Wright, who missed four months last year with spinal stenosis, but that won’t appear to be the case.

“As much as I’ve tried to be in the lineup as much as possible, I think that I understand it’s probably best for me and best for the team where I get some rest because of the condition of my back,” Wright said. “I like to play. I think Terry is just trying to be proactive. And he’s trying to look out for me and look out for the long term.

“I felt like we did a good job last year, toward the end of the year, spacing out rest. I think this is going to be a little different because you’re starting in February rather than only having to worry about a couple of months doing this. So I think he just wants to get out in front of it and be a little bit more proactive and maybe help me look out for myself.”

Of that was Wright talking so you know he’s not going to complain. That’s just not his style. But, these are the Mets we’re talking about, and I bet you thought of Matt Harvey and his innings limit last year. I sure did. I just hope this was just the beginning and there will be further talks and this won’t be forgotten.

Wright’s health is too important.